Jim Siergey: White Pine

September 20th, 2017

We don’t have a back yard. We have a back “yarden”. That’s my term for it.

The grass has been gone for years and replaced with a curved flagstone path surrounded on both sides with a profusion of assorted flora. The fauna comes and goes as it pleases.

There is also a towering Blue Spruce, a madly spreading Hemlock Bush and a teenage White Pine interspersed among the flowering varietals. My neighbors’ six foot high fences that border my yard on either side are covered with generations of ivy. It’s like a miniature Wrigley Field.

Thus, the yarden at times, can be quite lush.

Hidden off to the side between the spruce and the hemlock is a bench-swing that sits under a green tin roof that is supported by four wooden pillars. We call it a nook. We sit there and read or sometimes just sit there.

It offers a different perspective of the yarden.

When slumped, as is my normal sitting position, on that bench my eyeline delivers unto me a view consisting only of flowers, their stalks and green leaves, a wall of ivy, and beyond that, treetops and blue sky. Despite the reality of being in an urban setting, one can easily feel like one is out in the country.

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What a marvelous night for a Moondance…

 

That is, as long as there are no car alarms or sirens blaring. One must embrace those occasional moments of silent solitude.

The other day, I was sitting there, slumped and mired in my own rurality, embracing the moment. The way the afternoon light shone upon the leaves of the assorted flora reminded me of a moment in time, long ago, in Bloomington, Illinois.

It was the late 60s and I knew these guys, college students at Illinois Wesleyan University, who were living in an abandoned train car located in the middle of nowhere, which is also where Bloomington was located.

That area of Illinois is filled with corn fields, soy bean fields and just plain ol’ fields. Fields as far as the eye can see.

Their set up in this old train car was very cool. The décor was hippie college student and the vibes were, to put it in a modern context, chillin’. After a tour and inspection, we spent the afternoon sitting outside surrounded by fields, prairie and a great big sky.

The way the sunlight displayed itself upon the environs in my yarden was so reminiscent of the way the light hit the surrounding vegetation in Bloomington that I was swept back to that long ago afternoon.

For a fleeting instant I was once again sitting outside on a rusty lawn chair under a brilliant blue sky with the sun shining lazily upon the central Illinois flora, fauna and me, very high without a care in the world and listening to Van Morrison’s “Moondance” wafting through an open window of the train car.

Thanks for the moment, Mr. Sun.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Abbott & Stella

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Randolph Street: Snapping

September 20th, 2017

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Fisherman–Chicago River

 

 

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Tango–Buenos Aires

 

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Tree & Pier–North Lincoln Park

 

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Jan Schakowsky–Chicago

 

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Street Festival–Chicago

 

All photos © Jon Randolph

jonrandolph.com

 

 

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Jim Siergey: Abbott & Stella

September 17th, 2017

One never knows when a comedy routine will unexpectedly arise. In my house one can come out of nowhere.

For dinner recently I ordered some Indian food. As usual, I got carried away and selected a wee bit too much. It arrived and I carried the large brown shopping bag into the kitchen where I began unpacking it.

Our table was soon filled with appetizers, vegetable dishes, meat dishes and types of Indian bread, Papadum and Naan, which caused my wife to exclaim.

“Oh boy, look at this feast! My plate is full right now but be sure to save me some of that naan, okay?”

“Will do.”

We dug in and began to engorge ourselves on the take-out feast before us. Many minutes went by where the only sounds were those of lip-smacking mastication. Finally, my wife spoke up.

“Hoo boy, this is good. I’m ready for some naan now. I trust there is still some left.”

“There’s naan left.”

“What? I asked you to save me some.”

“We have naan.”

abbottcostellowhosonfirstI don’t know’s on third…

 

“I am so disappointed. I was really looking forward to having some.”

“There is naan.”

“I know! Quit rubbing it in.”

“No, no, naan exists!”

“Your message has come in loud and clear, Buster. You can shut up about it now!”

“Look, there’s naan on the table!”

“You’re gonna be on the floor if you don’t stop talking about it!”

“I’m trying to tell you that we have naan!”

“I get it! I get it! Knock it off already. What’s wrong with you?”

“I….oh…never mind.”

“Is there any more of that lamb dish? What’s it called?”

“It’s Goan.”

“THAT TOO!?”

Third base.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Giddy Up

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Jim Siergey: Giddy Up

September 9th, 2017

We played cowboys when I was a kid. In fact, we lived and breathed cowboys.

They were everywhere, especially on the relatively new invention called television. In order to fill time in this fledgling frontier, old B-westerns were converted into half hour TV shows.

We sat in our checkered shirts with kerchiefs knotted around our necks and cowboy hats upon our heads and wore our eyes out watching Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys as well as Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy.

I had a Hopalong Cassidy holster along with two six guns. The holster was made of black leather-like material with lots of silvery baubles embedded in it. The pistols were shiny chrome with ivory-colored plastic handles that had the head of a Texas Longhorn molded onto each side.

The whole set was stylin’, man.

Now I really dug that holster and six guns and I liked Hoppy, all clad in black with a tall ten galloner atop his head full of white hair, but Roy Rogers, man, he was the king. It even said so in his description. Who could argue with that?

The show was sort of a weird set-up, a blending of the old west and modern times. Besides horses and six guns and sheriffs and villains and hideouts, there were cars and trucks and men attired in suits and fedoras.

Pat Brady was the comedy relief and he drove an often broken down jeep called Nelly Belle. Roy and his partner Dale Evans rode horses and were accompanied by a German Shepherd named Bullet. I used to think that Bullet also played the role of Rin Tin Tin in another series but I don’t think his contract allowed it.

lonerangersilverHi-yo, Silver…

 

Let me not forget to mention Trigger, Roy’s horse of many talents.

We kids ate up that cowboy shtick. Once, an uncle of mine returned from a trip to Texas and brought me a pair of gen-u-ine cowboy boots. Boy, were they fine. They barely fit me when new so, to my disappointment, I wasn’t able to wear them for long.

Darn growth spurts.

Despite the lead cowboys’ top-billing and heroic deeds, their comic-relief partners often were more popular. Besides Rogers’ Pat Brady, Hoppy had the toothless and bearded Gabby Hayes, consarn it, as his pard while Gene Autry (a rather bland cowboy actor in my opinion)paired up with the whiney Pat Buttram, who later gained everlasting fame as the conniving Mr. Haney on the Green Acres TV show.

There were two others, however, who were the most popular.

Raspy-voiced Andy Devine played “Jingles” to Guy Madison’s “Wild Bill Hickok” and his line that was spoken in every show opening, “Hey, Wild Bill, wait for me!”, will never be erased from the memory banks of Baby Boomers everywhere.

The other beloved second banana was Leo Carillo. He played “Pancho” to Duncan Renaldo’s “Cisco Kid”. He is best known for his half of the delivery that was usually the show’s closing remarks as he sheepishly uttered “Oh, Ceesco” answered by Renaldo’s “Oh, Pancho.”

Pancho memorably mangled the English language and I must admit that to this day I find myself using another of his oft-spoken remarks, “Let’s went.”

Yep, cowboys, cowboys, cowboys. That was childhood in 1950s America. I knew the names of all of the cowboy’s horses too. I probably still do.

Try me. If you dare.

Before I ride off into the sunset, it would be quite negligent of me not to mention the cowboy show that was second to, if not topping, Roy Rogers in popularity and that was “The Lone Ranger”. It awakened us kids to classical music, at least the William Tell Overture, and our parents would have been wise to buy stock in General Mills because our consumption of Cheerios, the show’s sponsor, would have landed them on Easy Street.

Lone’s companion, Tonto, despite his name, was not a foolish one. He was able and trusted. Perhaps that made The Lone Ranger stand out more. He didn’t need any comic relief sidekick.

Plus, he entered our small screens on a fiery horse with the speed of light along with a cloud of dust and a hearty (all together now)…

“Hi-yo, Silver!”

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Put Me In, Coach

 

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Jim Siergey: Put Me In, Coach!

September 3rd, 2017

In a recent Third City post, Benny Jay wrote about his experience being a baseball coach for T-Ball at Welles Park. He picked mostly girls for his team simply because he wanted female camaraderie for his young daughter.

For these acts, he received flak from other coaches.

I know the type. They’re the ones who envision themselves as reincarnations of Billy Martin* and they must win at all costs, even if they’re only coaching a bunch of 7 and 8 year olds, many of whom never even saw a baseball mitt before joining T-Ball, a game where one tries to hit a ball that is perched on a tee.

I know because I also coached baseball at Welles Park, although I stumbled into it unintentionally.

My son played T-Ball and I ended up attending most of his games. There were two dads who coached the team and I noticed that they constantly criticized the kids.

The entire activity was new territory for those young’uns. Digesting the rules of the game and understanding teamwork, much less trying to hit a ball and knowing to which base to run or even how to catch and throw are a lot of concepts for a kid with the attention span of a gnat to comprehend.

Thus, they often fell short of the coaches’ expectations.

But, every now and then, they did something right. Someone would throw or run to the correct base or, even, just catch the ball. But they were never commended or applauded for their accomplishments.

I decided that the next year I would volunteer to be an assistant coach so I could be that guy, the one who gave out positive reinforcement. I’d be the Chuck Tanner** of Welles Park Little League.

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The real  “Ol’ Perfessor”…

 

Next year arrived and I found myself in the Welles Park gymnasium with my son, who had now advanced beyond T-Ball, along with other fathers and their sons (and some daughters) as well as a bunch of unchaperoned kids. The park director then began picking teams.

“You, you go over there. You, over here. You, you’re Tony’s cousin so you have to play on the same team with him.”

On he went, indiscriminately choosing up sides until there were six teams with fifteen kids on each one. I looked around and saw behind me a row of kids and no one else. That’s when I realized that I was not going to be an assistant coach. I was THE coach.

“What did I get myself into?” I thought to myself as the terrifying realization hit me.

I just wanted to be hanging around the fringe, clapping my hands, patting backs and giving out with the good vibes. What did I know about organizing practices and dealing with people, much less people aged 9–12 ?

I had forgotten the age-old lesson—“Never volunteer.”

At the time, which was 1982, I was working at the harp shop. During our lunch break, I jokingly mentioned, “Guess what I’m going to be doing this summer—coaching a little league team.”

Instead of hearing laughter and scorn in response, two of the guys spoke up and asked, “Really? Do you need any help?”

I was floored. Neither of these guys had kids and didn’t even live in the neighborhood but I wasn’t going to concern myself with that. I quickly replied “Sure, if you’d like to!”

So, the three of us coached a Little League team that summer and, in fact, coached together for the next few summers.

Eddie was the teacher, intently instructing everyone on the basic fundamentals. He was good at it. Pat was the cool coach, arriving on his motorcycle and keeping the kids loose with such admonitions as “You don’t have a chance if you don’t take a chance.”

Me, I was “The Ol’ Perfessor” who dealt with the strategic part of the game, finding the right position for each kid as well as their best place in the batting order.

The kids learned the basic fundamentals of the game and, more importantly, had fun doing it. I also learned a lot, how to deal with different personalities and how to get the best effort out of someone and making him feel good about himself.

And, oh yes, just so I don’t catch any flak from Benny Jay, I always selected a girl or two for every team I coached.

* a fiery personality whose veins were constantly on the verge of exploding from his neck and head who instigated many a fight on the ball field and off—and since he played for and managed the Yankees, was the epitome of an out-of-towner’s view of a New Yorker.

** a glad-handing, back-slapping, exhorter of positive thought who managed several mediocre White Sox teams of the early 1970s.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Email

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Jim Siergey: The Email

August 29th, 2017

A friend of mine, a real go-getter who co-runs a Public Relations company, emailed me recently with what she termed an “Odd Ball Request”.

She wanted to know if I would be interested in coming out to an aerial park in Crown Point, Indiana at 5:30 on a Monday morning. Normally, I would have stopped reading right there but I don’t receive that much email and I still had half a cup of coffee left so I continued on.

It was some sort of live segment promo that was to be aired on WCIU-TV. She said that if zip-lining was on my bucket list, this would be an opportunity to check it off that said list.

Being an ace PR person, she knows what buttons to push, so she added that this would also be a great opportunity to share one of my crazy experiences with my Third City readers.

I refilled my now-empty coffee cup and replied with as much tact as I could muster in the early (but not 5:30 early) hours of the morning in which I found myself. With fingers poised above the keyboard, I began to put them into action.

“Pat, “(it’s always good to start off by acknowledging your “correspondee” by name), “I think the Third City story could be merely your request.” (And, look, it IS!)

“Besides the timing of this venture(is the sun even up at 5:30?), zip-lining would be listed on my bucket list, if I had such a thing, right below seeing what blowing my brains out with a Colt .45 revolver would be like.”

Realizing that that might be too harsh, I attempted to soften it with a truism.

“Heck, I get queasy on a playground swing.”

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This could be Jim…

 

But I did not stop there. Those slender digits of mine kept pushing down keys.

“That said, and in case I’m being too vague with my subtle remonstrations, let me make myself perfectly clear by humbly taking a pass on your barely enticing offer. Not that I don’t wish to assist you in your PR undertaking, it’s just that I have a prior commitment…with my pillow.”

Hmmm, I thought to myself, was that too nasty? At least I think I thought that to myself. Actually, I believe I was on automatic pilot and just like I never know what’s going to come out of my mouth until I say it, typing an email works pretty much the same way.

A’course, I can edit, amend and delete an email, that is, if I do any of that before I hit ‘send’.

I closed in a manner that I thought was upbeat as well as optimistic.

“Thanks, and feel free to try again, just like Powerball. —Jim”

I clicked ‘send’, rose and walked away.

A little while later I returned to the computer, sat down and pondered what I had done.

Could my response be taken derogatorily? Would my friend be insulted, taken aback, as sore as hell?

It wouldn’t be the first time that someone would be offended by something I said or wrote. I, of course, never mean any harm with my words. It’s those damned interpretations that get me into hot water.

I clicked the machine on with intentions of writing back in an apologetic manner. Sometimes ‘tis better to be safe than sorry.

I found a reply to my response awaiting me. With trembling fingers I clicked it open.

“Thanks for giving me my best laugh out loud moment of the day with real tears streaming down my face.”

See? Some people do get me.

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was No Exit…

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Jim Siergey: No Exit

August 24th, 2017

The Donald marches on.

No matter what he does or says, he continues to move his slumping hulk onward wearing the office of the Presidency of the United States like a lobster bib.

He refers to his behavior as “Modern Day Presidential”. I suppose he means his tweeting as well as his ability to make everything sound like we’re on the precipice of disaster and his need to have his name and face in print and on screen every single minute of every single fucking day!

His recent wink and nod to Nazis, White Supremacists and the KKK got him in hot water for a few minutes, just like every other horrifying thing he has said and done.

I don’t need to name them all, do I? The Third City allows only a maximum of 800 words.

Some day, I say, some day he will finally go too far (although I can’t imagine what that unacceptable deed could possibly be, outside of nuclear annihilation and, if so, who cares?) and be taken to the proverbial woodshed, have his trousers lowered so a switch can be taken to his bare behind for a long overdue whupping before he’s sent to his gold-plated room without dinner or the presidency.

If somehow, some way, he is banished in such a manner (preferably) or otherwise, whether through the spine that Congress miraculously grows or the findings of Robert Mueller, we can only breathe a wee bit easier because his exit will bring us…Mike Pence.

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The great Mr. Lewis…

 

The testicularly challenged Pence, who upon Trump’s exit, will finally be able to disengage his head which has been firmly lodged deep inside the Orange One’s anal cavity, ain’t no bouquet of roses. Based on where his dome has been dwelling, he won’t smell like one either.

In an attempt to bring an end to our long national embarrassment he will, undoubtedly, pardon Trump from whatever crimes and misdemeanors with which he may be charged.

Trump’s exit will produce an outcry from the Extreme White but overall, I expect that our nation will be so weary at that point that it will merely shrug and say, “Yeah, okay. Whatever. Let’s just shut up and move on.”

However, those who are believers in equal rights for all, environmental protection, climate change and, heck, even that smoking is bad for you, as Pence does not, must continue to be diligent. The only thing in our nation’s favor regarding Pence is that he is not a mad man.

Actually, it’s difficult to tell whether he is mad or not since he elicits no emotion or passion. His demeanor and speech patterns are so somnambulant that he may put the country to sleep.

Heck, we could use a nap.

Despite the man’s roboticness, at heart and head he is a politician. Although many of his beliefs are strictly of the 17th century variety, the fact that he has lived his adult life as a politician are points in his, and our, favor. He should be able to tell which way the wind is blowing and then deal with it correspondingly.

Hope springs eternal, doth it not?

So let us hope that he will be a change from the one now residing (sometimes) in the White House who only cares for the wind, like smoke, to blow one way, up where the head of Mr. Pence rests.

Then again, if Pence is implicated in any of the nefarious findings that Mr. Mueller might find, then that will leave us with (tremulous whisper) “Paul Ryan”.

A’course, this is all just one man’s opinion, grain of salt not included, but doesn’t it sorta feel like we’re trapped in a script that is somehow being written by Jean-Paul Sartre, Eugen Ionesco, Dante Alighieri and Jerry Lewis?

 

Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Real Man Rules

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